• State Underground Power Program

    The State Underground Power Program (the Program) is a partnership between the Government of Western Australia, Western Power and local governments. It involves putting overhead power lines in established areas underground. Funding for projects is shared between program partners.

    Objectives

    The objectives of this initiative are to:

    • improve reliability and security of electricity supply for consumers
    • enhance streetscapes and visual amenity
    • reduce street tree maintenance costs for local governments
    • improve street lighting and community safety
    • reduce maintenance costs for Western Power.

    Background

    The Program was established in 1996 to improve the reliability of electricity supply, after a severe storm in 1994 caused major disruptions in Perth and southern parts of Western Australia. Western Power later reported that 80 per cent of the power failures could be attributed to trees and branches falling on power lines.

    The Program has operated successfully since its inception, and about 55 per cent of houses in the Perth metropolitan area now have underground power. While property developers must underground electricity supplies in new sub-divisions, about 370,000 homes in Perth and 90,000 homes in regional urban areas are still connected to Western Power’s overhead distribution system.

    The Program is very popular with local governments, and projects are awarded through competitive rounds similar to a public tender (subject to a budget for each funding round).

    Eighty-five projects have been completed under the Program, providing underground distribution connections to over 86,000 properties.

    Delivery

    The Underground Power Steering Committee (comprising representatives from the Department of Finance, the Western Australian Local Government Association and Western Power) is responsible for managing the Program, including evaluating project proposals. The Program has two project delivery streams: Major Residential Projects and Localised Enhancement Projects.

    • Major Residential Projects aim to improve the reliability of electricity supplies, predominantly in residential areas (typically 500 to 1,300 allotments).
    • Localised Enhancement Projects aim to beautify urban gateways, scenic routes and tourism/heritage centres (particularly in regional towns). These projects are smaller than major residential projects.

    Round Five of the Program is currently in progress for both Major Residential Projects and Localised Enhancement Projects.

    Funding Round Six for Major Residential Projects

    On 4 December 2015, the Minister for Energy, the Hon Dr Mike Nahan MLA, announced the opening of the next funding round (Round Six) for Major Residential Projects. The Minister invited local governments to submit project proposals. This followed an announcement, on 12 November 2015, of changes to the project selection criteria and to the funding arrangements to apply to the funding round.

    The revised project selection process will assist in increasing the network security improvements delivered by the Program. It will also better align funding contribution shares with the proportionate benefits received by Program participants.

    For further information, refer to the Fact Sheet and the Round Six guidelines under Related Documents.

    There are no planned changes to the project selection and funding arrangements for Localised Enhancement Projects.

    Contact

    Mark Thompson, Policy and Research Officer, Public Utilities Office
    Phone: (08) 6551 4709

    Pat Smith, Principal Project Officer, Public Utilities Office
    Phone: (08) 6551 4733

    Email: supp.executiveofficer@finance.wa.gov.au

    Last updated: 04 December 2015